Holiday Giving Guide: Seven Meaningful Ways to Give Back This Year

| 6 min read Crowdfunding

Helping others has always been a hallmark of the holiday season. Long before ugly sweater parties and pumpkin-flavored concoctions, people were spending the final months of the year lending a hand to others. And that tradition has held strong. In fact, 30% of annual giving happens in December.

From sharing a few kind words to building food baskets for needy families, there are countless ways to brighten someone’s holiday season without investing too much time or money. If you’re looking for new ways to make an impact with your holiday giving, we’ve got you covered.

Seven ways to give back during the holidays

From the GoFundMe team

The GoFundMe team is fortunate enough to read through thousands of holiday giving campaigns started by folks who are looking to help others or are seeking help themselves. Read about their favorite giving experiences and use one (or more!) of their winter fundraising ideas to inspire your own holiday plans this year.

1. Spread a bit of warmth

A warm blanket is easy to take for granted. But when the weather turns chilly, basic household items can be the highlight of someone’s holiday season.

Bethany, a Community Management Specialist at GoFundMe, has collected blankets for a San Diego-based nonprofit for the last few years. The Alpha Project helps low-income individuals and families find affordable housing, and it also provides emergency services to the homeless. Bethany says blankets are an easy item to round up since households often replace them and forget about older blankets.

“They go a long way for many who live in underserved communities during the winter,” she says. “You’re reminded of how there are so many simple and easy ways to contribute to your community.”

Related reading: Ways to Lessen the Impact of COVID-19 on Marginalized Communities

2. Coupon for a cause

If you’ve ever scoffed at clipping coupons, it might be time to reconsider. Katrina, a Payment Risk Specialist and a self-proclaimed “competitive couponer,” racks up small discounts from coupons in order to buy essential items for people in need.

“I’ll go on a couponing streak for a few months that allows me to carry over money or ‘credit’ to start getting items for free,” says Katrina. “A lot of stores give you money back in the form of gift cards or credit for their store if you buy certain things.”

Katrina assembles the discounted items, like socks, gloves, and toiletries, into care packages. Her fiancé, then hands them out during his night shift at work to people who look like they could use some help.

“While we do our best to give back all year round, we’ve learned that giving back over the holidays makes a lot of people who feel forgotten feel loved.”

3. Send snail mail

Who doesn’t feel a spark of appreciation when opening up their mailbox to find a handwritten note waiting for them? Jeannette, a Senior Regional Manager in Germany, knows that writing holiday cards to people may be a small gesture, but it can certainly mean a lot.

“I wanted to connect personally with folks who I knew did not have relatives or friends anymore,” she says. So she worked with a nearby nursing home to send holiday postcards to residents there.

“What stood out to me is how much people—old and young—appreciate random acts of kindness. It is the little things that matter, that make us enjoy life,” says Jeannette.

4. Open your home

Many people during this time of year want to spend quality time with loved ones—but what about those who can’t make it home for the holidays due to the COVID-19 pandemic or financial stressors related to the recession? Offering to include those people in your holiday festivities can mean the world to them, says Lauren, a Customer Happiness Agent.

“When there’s so much public attention directed toward ‘togetherness’ and ‘family,’ it’s especially rough to be left out.”

Lauren first began organizing festive events for people away from their families when she studied abroad in Scotland. The tradition has stuck with her, and she continues to host Friendsgiving and Chinese Lunar New Year events.

“I think that the holidays are the perfect time of year to go out of your way to make sure everyone feels valued, and that they’re part of a social unit,” says Lauren.

Related reading: Where to Find Financial Help During the Coronavirus

5. Strike up a conversation

Sometimes the simplest of acts can mean the most. Dat, a Customer Happiness Agent, realized this couldn’t be more true while serving food to the less fortunate at the Salvation Army’s annual Christmas dinner.

“There are a lot of people who come in for this dinner who are homeless and are generally ignored throughout their day because of the fact that they may be living on the street,” says Dat.

He has spent the last five Christmas afternoons alongside his mom helping the homeless by serving them meals. “It’s really interesting to see how simply having a genuine conversation with a person can make an impact, especially during a time of year when they may feel the loneliest.”

6. Do good as a group

Trying something new can sometimes be a bit intimidating, so why not bring a friend or two along?

That’s exactly what Nicole, the Customer Happiness Lead in Dublin, did last year. Along with a few co-workers, she signed up as an outreach volunteer with Inner City Helping Homeless to contribute to a winter clothing drive and pack Christmas boxes for the homeless.

“Doing something new or out of your comfort zone can always be a challenge at first,” says Nicole, “so it’s a massive plus getting together as a group to do something like this. The nervous feeling usually only lasts a little while, while the help you provide might make a difference for life. How rewarding is that?”

7. Raise money for a cause you care about with crowdfunding

This year has certainly brought many important causes to the forefront of our minds. Whether you decide to fundraise for coronavirus related causes or aid in the fight for justice and equality, crowdfunding is an easy way to take action. Starting a crowdfunding fundraiser or donating to fundraisers that inspire you are a few more ways to touch someone’s life this holiday season.

GoFundMe operates with a 0% platform fee for organizers, which means more of the donations go to people who need them. From Giving Tuesday fundraisers to end-of-the-year fundraising drives, there are countless worthy causes on our site looking for support.

Even the simple act of sharing a fundraiser that matters to you on social media and encouraging others to donate can make a difference.

Ready to give back this holiday season?

Whether you want to buy a few Thanksgiving baskets for people or plan a toy drive—or anything in between—GoFundMe makes it easy to raise funds for the holidays. Sign up to create a GoFundMe for a cause that matters to you, or simply donate to an inspiring holiday fundraiser that’s doing good in the world.

Start a holiday fundraiser

Written by caitlin